How To Revive Dying Hydrangea Plant

The reason for a dying hydrangea is usually due to drought, frost injury, too much sunlight, or transplant shock. You can prevent hydrangeas from drooping or dying by keeping the soil moist and protecting them from the sun’s rays.

To revive a dying Hydrangea, it is important that you mimic their natural conditions in your garden. This includes soil moisture and protection against too much sun and wind.

The most common reasons that hydrangeas need to be revived are:

  • Drooping Hydrangeas due to too much sun, drought and fast-draining soil.
  • Hydrangia leaves can turn yellow or dry from too much sun.
  • Hydrangea leaves turning brown or black after a late frost.
  • Recently planted hydrangea dying due to transplant shock. Root rot is caused by saturated soil, or pots that are not properly drained.
  • Hydrangea dying due to being planted in a pot or container that is too small. Too much fertilizer or manure at a high level burning roots

Continue reading to learn how to fix these problems and restore hydrangea health so it blooms next year …


Hydrangeas Dying Due to Small Pots

When growing hydrangeas in pots choose a pot that is at least 16 inches across (with good drainage).

Hydrangeas grown in small pots can dry out too quickly, which can lead to drought.

Small pots heat quickly in the sun, have less soil capacity and retain less moisture. This can lead to drought.

Large pots are possible for hydrograngeas to grow. Pots should not be too large to prevent roots from becoming stuck in the pot. This will ensure that roots have enough room to absorb all nutrients and moisture.

If your hydrgean is planted in a relatively small pot then transplant it to a larger pot of at least 16 inches accross to help it recover.

It is better to transplant hydrangeas to different pots in Spring or Fall than in Summer. This helps to reduce transplant shock and the risk of drought.

Keep the soil moist following repotting. For a few weeks, protect the hydrangeas from direct sunlight to allow them to establish without having to deal with the drying effects of the sun.

Hydrangea Dooping (Drought )

  • Symptoms. Hydrangea leaves and flowers that are wilting or falling apart. Hydrangea leaves are possibly turning brown and possibly foliage growth with few flowers.
  • Causes. Too little water, soil drying too fast without retaining moisture, tree roots competing with the Hydrangea for water/ intercept rainfall.

Hydrangeas require a consistent moist soil in order to thrive. They have a fibrous root system with relatively shallow roots.

If your hydrangea is wilting or drooping then this is most commonly a sign of stress due to drought or lack of moisture in the soil.

This is usually due to hot and dry summer weather, but there could be other reasons.

  1. If the soil is sandy or stony with very little organic content (compost, or leaf mould) then it can drain too quickly for the hydrangea roots to draw up moisture.
  2. Hydrangeas prefer to grow in the dappled light of a tree canopy as this replicates their natural growing conditions. If the hydrangea is surrounded with tree roots that are highly dependent on water (such as pine or beech trees), this could lead to dry soil.
  3. Additionally if the tree canopy is particularly dense then the hydrangea may not benefit from rainfall as it can be intercepted and deflected by the trees abundant leaf coverage.
  4. Over exposed areas with high winds are also unfavourable for hydrangeas as they are accustomed to protection from wind (which saps the large leaves of moisture) from trees or buildings. Another reason for drooping Hydrangeas is the application of fertilizer. This is not due to soil moisture. Hydrangeas do not need to be fed a lot and are easy to care for if they are in good soil that has lots of compost. Applying nitrogen fertilizer can stimulate lots of leaf growth. The stems of your Hydrangea may become soft and sappy, which can cause the flowers and leaves to droop.

How to Revive a Drooping Hydrangea

Water the soil around the Hydrangea generously. Although some hydrangeas don’t require additional water once they are established in warm climates, others need to be watered regularly once a week to combat dry conditions. If the soil is sandy, the hydrangea may need to be removed temporarily. The best soil conditions for hydrangeas are those that can retain water. This is why leaf mould and compost have a great capacity to do so. Apply a mulch to your hydrangeas with a 1 inch layer of compost, leaf mold or well-rotted manure. These three materials can help conserve water, add nutrients, improve soil structures, and prevent the sun from drying out the soil. Scale back fertilizer use if you notice that your hydrangea is having a lot of leaves but very few flowers or a droopy appearance. You can give the soil a good soak to reduce the strength of liquid fertilizers, but it may be necessary to wait until next year to see the hydrangea’s revival.

Hydrograngeas thrive on moist soil rich in organic matter. It is therefore important to provide these conditions by preparing the soil well and watering as needed.

The frequency of watering will depend on many factors, such as the climate and soil type. It is best to test soil to a depth of a few fingers to ensure that it is moist.

If the soil seems dry, give it a good soak to encourage roots to grow. It is important to keep the soil moist but not saturated.

Always give your hydrangeas a good soak, rather than watering only occasionally. This causes roots to reach the surface for water and makes them more vulnerable to drought.

Most species of hydrangea grow best in partial shade, with the dappled light of a tree canopy often providing the optimal balance of sun and shade.

Hydrangeas that are exposed to full sun tends to dry faster, which can cause the plant to droop. So be careful when choosing a site for your planting.

(For more information and best practices read my article why is my hydrangea drooping? )

Dying Hydrangea Too Much Sun

  • Symptoms. Scorched leaves that can turn yellow and feel dry with a wilting appearance despite watering.
  • Causes. Many hydrangea varieties grow best in partial shade, under the dappled sunlight of a tree canopy or in the morning sun. In more arid areas, full sun for longer than 6 hours can burn sensitive leaves.

Hydrangeas are adapted to growing under tree canopies in their native environment, therefore they grow very well in gardens with some shade and protection from wind to protect the leaves.

Hydrangea leaves can become yellowed and scorched if they are exposed to full sunlight for more than 6 hours.

Too much sun can also dry out the soil, which causes hydrangeas flowers and leaves to wilt.

How to Tell If your Hydrangea is Sun-burnt

It is easy to diagnose sunburn in hydrangeas. Leaves that have been exposed to direct sunlight should be the most affected. However, leaves that have been shaded by other plants should retain more of a green colour even though they could be wilting.

Although some hydrangeas can grow in full sun, others will flower in partial shade. However, some plants can thrive in sunnier areas.

(Read more about promoting hydrangea flowers in my article, why is my hydrangea not flowering? )

If your hydrangea spends most of its day in direct sunlight, you can either move it to a shaded area in your garden or add some shade to the plant .

The leaves that have been badly sunburnt are unlikely to recover, but the whole plant should survive. To encourage new growth, trim the damaged shoots. The hydrangea will recover.

Hydrangea leaves turn brown or black due to Frost Damage

  • Symptoms. Leaves and flowers of the hydrangeas turning black or brown suddenly.
  • Causes. The late frosts of the Fall or the early frosts of the Spring can cause damage to tender new growth.

Hydrangea leaf can become black or brown due to a variety of reasons. However, if the leaves have changed from a healthy green overnight then it is likely that they have suffered frost damage.

Frost damage is most common in spring and affects tender, new growth. Larger, more established leaves are often unaffected as they are more accustomed to cold temperatures and more resilient.

Frost damage can still occur in Fall when there is an unusually sharp drop in temperature at night.

Hydrangeas are resilient plants. While frost damage can be severe, they can recover quickly with proper care. However, frost can cause damage to the flower buds, which can stop them from flowering.

Revive Frost Damaged Hydrangeas

To revive frost-damaged hydrangeas, you will need to prune back the damaged growth with a pair or pruners.

Avoid fertilizing hydrangeas in August, as this can encourage new, tender growth. Hydrangeas should be hardening off for winter to prepare for the colder temperatures.

Frost can cause damage to the flower buds of your Hydrangea, which can often stop flowering.

Once the flower buds are damaged, they are not likely to flower again. Prevention is better than cure.

If there is a late freeze in Spring, then you can protect your flower buds with horticultural wool the night before to prevent frost damage.

Frost damage is unlikely to cause hydrangea death. However, with patience and careful pruning the plant should recover. It may not bloom properly until the next year.

(Read my article, why is my hydrangea not blooming for solutions that actually work).

Hydrangea Dying after Planting (Transplant shock)

  • Symptoms. Hydrangea turning brown, wilting and dying after planting
  • Causes. Transplant shock is caused by a difference in the growing conditions at your garden and the garden center. Hydrangeas can die if they are planted in summer with intense sunlight and high temperatures.

Hydrangeas can be established and are usually resilient, but they are more susceptible to dying during their first season.

This could be because they are adapting their new circumstances.

Transplant shock is more severe when the growing conditions where the plant was grown (in the nursery, or while on display at the garden center) are different from the conditions in your garden.

If the hydrangea was carefully grown in a nursery greenhouse that has the ideal temperature, nutrients and water protection from the sun, it will be more resilient to the elements. These conditions can make the hydrangea more accustomed to outdoor plantings, making it less resilient.

It can also prove problematic to plant hydrangeas in the peak of Summer.

The best time to plant hydrangeas is in the Spring or Fall as this gives the hydrangea time for its roots to establish and adapt to the soil, so it can draw up moisture effectively before the intense heat of summer.

In Summer the higher temperatures can dry out the hydrangea so that the roots cannot draw up water at the same rate that water is lost through the large abundant leaves causing the hydrangea to wilt and turn brown.

How to Revive a Newly Planted Dying Hydrangea

  • The best times to plant hydrangeas are the Spring and Fall. It is important to coordinate your plant purchases so it is in the right time. However, if your newly planted hydrangea struggles with the heat of summer, you can shade it (maybe with an umbrella) and water the soil thoroughly every so often to keep it moist. Apply a 1-inch thick layer of mulch (compost, leaf mould) to conserve moisture.
  • Reviving a hydrangea in transplant shock is possible by providing the ideal growing conditions and waiting for it to adapt to the new environment.
  • Hydrangeas require lots of good compost when planting for optimal soil structure, moisture and nutrients. To prevent the hydrangeas from becoming too dry, shade them from the sun. Hydrangeas need to be watered frequently.

Make sure your hydrangeas are planted in the right soil.

Hydrangeas can die after being planted in too sandy soil (drains too fast and is low in nutrients) and in too clay soil (drains too slowly and may bake hard in summer, making it difficult for roots to establish).

In gardens with poor soil conditions, it is important that you amend as much of your garden as possible (at least twice as large as the root ball) before planting your Hydrangeas to ensure the best soil characteristics.

Multipurpose compost and leaf mold are great ways to amend soil for growing Hydrangeas. Applying a mulch each year will help to improve the soil’s nutrient content, allowing your hydrangeas to thrive.

Rootrot (Hydrangea Dying In a Pot or Boggy Soil )

  • Symptoms. The appearance of wilted leaves, such as browning or yellowing leaves. Dark coloured roots with a soft texture.
  • Causes. Slow draining soils, such as clay and pots with poor drainage.

*Hydrangeas need moist soil that drains well. They cannot tolerate soil that is too saturated. If soil is boggy then this lead to root rot.

Hydrangeas need soil that is moist but well-draining. This characteristic is found in compost, well-rotted organic matter from garden scrap or loam soil.

If your soil is clayy or naturally boggy, it will likely drain too slowly for hydroangeas. Roots can also suffer from fungal disease like root rot.

This can also happen if hydrangeas have been planted in pots that do not have drainage holes.

This promotes fungal diseases such as root rot, which causes the hydrangeas to droop with yellow or brown leaves, and eventually die.

How To Revive a Dying Hydrangea with Root Rot

  • It can be difficult to save hydrangeas that have been in saturated soil for long periods of time. If the plant is experiencing extensive root rot, you might need to purchase a new hydrangea and place it in more favorable soil. However, hydrangeas that have been in damp soil for only a short time or whose soil drains slowly may be considered water stressed. In these cases, it is possible to save them.
  • If the ground is muddy, carefully remove the hydrangea and use a fork to inspect the roots. If the roots are soft, dark or have a soft appearance, you can trim them back to healthy growth using a pair of sterilized pruners. To prevent fungus from spreading to healthy roots, wipe the blades with a disinfectant-soaked cloth after each cut. Replant the Hydrangea in a pot that drains well or in another garden border with better drainage. Replant your Hydrangea by amending the soil with lots of compost.
  • Don’t replant your hydrangea in the exact same spot as before. The soil could have the fungus that caused your hydrangeas to die. To kill the fungus, treat the soil with an organic pesticide. The soil should eventually be safe for planting other plants.

Hydrangeas will recover best if they are transplanted to an area with better drainage.

However, if your soil is very boggy, you might consider growing hydrangeas inside pots or containers. They have better drainage and can be easily adapted to your soil (by using compost).

Too much fertilizer or manure can burn Hydrangea Roots

Too much fertilizer can cause hydrangea to rot, which can lead to it turning brown and drooping.

Hydrangeas do not need to be fed as often as roses. They do not need an annual feed.

Hydrangeas can often flower and grow well if they are planted in good soil.

Apply a mulch layer 1 inch thick around the Hydrangea. This will help retain moisture and add nutrients. (Compost or leaf mould are great choices). The Hydrangea should flourish.

The only situations where fertilizer can be used are

  • The hydrangeas are planted in sandy soil, which is nutrient-poor. The hydrangea has been placed in a container or pot in which the roots have exhausted all the nutrients available.

In these cases, it is better to use an all-purpose well balanced fertilizer (NPK), at half strength. Only apply it once in spring.

Well rotted manure is a good soil amendment, but it can also contain a lot nitrogen. This can cause hydrangea roots to become brittle if mixed with soil after planting.

I recommend amending the soil with compost to avoid problems. Fresh manure can be particularly dangerous, so let it rot for at least a year before applying to your garden.

If your hydrangea has been planted in soil with manure, then it is best to transplant it to a place with soil and compost. It should recover.

Reduce the amount of fertilizer and cut back on any brown flowers or leaves. To help the Hydrangea resuscitate, water the plant well.

Key Takeaways

  • The main reason hydrangeas die is due to a lack of moisture in the soil. The soil must be moist. Hydrangeas will die if it is dry.
  • Hydrangeas can die due to frost damage, drought, transplant shock and because of too much sun.
  • Root rot can cause hydrangeas to die if the base is not drained. Pots that are too small can dry out too fast and limit root growth. To revive hydrangeas, water them well with a mulch of compost. This will protect them from the sun and wind. To promote healthy growth, remove any sun-burnt or frost damaged growth.


Went from a bad gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)